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Take a look at what's going on in the world of property management with Watson's news and blog feed

Leeds Waterfront Festival 2016

Watson are proud to sponsor and support this years' Leeds Waterfront Festival.  As the managers of a number of landmark waterfront developments in Leeds city centre, some of which are integral to the event, we are delighted wholeheartedly support this celebration of the city's rich history and very special places to live and work.  The event starts Friday 24th June and features a wide range of special events and performances over the weekend of the 25th and 26th June. If your in the area pop along and join in the fun!

 

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Meet the MD

Watson are pleased to announce the appointment of Anthony Bennett as the company's Managing Director, effective from February 2016.  Anthony has worked for Watson since the year 2000 and has worked within, and indeed headed up, most departments within the company.  His previous banking career alongside the experience gained within his family's industrial manufacturing business has allowed him to instigate some of the most innovative property management solutions seen in the sector over past years.

His rare combination of practical and financial skills, alongside hands-on experience, affords him an in-depth understanding of every element of our service delivery and this made him the natural choice to succeed Jean Bramhill, the company's previous MD for three decades, who has stepped-away into a Deputy-Chair role on the board of Directors until her forthcoming retirement.  The extensive cross-over of Anthony and Jean's role ensures that the company remains completely stable during the transition and the great service that Watson's customers have come to enjoy remains consistent throughout.

So many congratulations to Anthony; here's to the future and many more years of Watson leading the field of residential managing agents.  Of course we must offer thanks for Jeans' momentous contribution to the company over the last 30+ years; to say a brief thank you to her is simply not enough.  We will look-back at some of the milestones of her time heading-up Watson as her retirement approaches, however that is a little way off yet.

Watson Voted Industry ‘Employer of the Year’

Watson is delighted to announce that they have been judged winners at one of the most highly contested national industry awards. The News On The Block ‘Property Management Awards’ independently recognise the excellence and professionalism of companies and individuals within the residential property management industry.

Despite record numbers of nominations and entries, Watson were crowned outright winners in the category of ‘Employer of the Year’. As the first and only ‘employee owned’ residential managing agents in the UK, there is little doubt that Watson’s unique ownership structure and the staff engagement that this engenders gave them the edge over industry rivals.

Anthony Bennett & Chris Wiles of Watson were presented with the award at a spectacular event held at Wembley Stadium in front of over 700 people from the industry. Chris commented:

“We are delighted that Watson’s pioneering approach to company ownership and the superb work that the whole team undertakes, has been recognised in this way. As a company we have a rich heritage and many industry first’s under our belt, however this [employee ownership] is the one that we are most proud of.”

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News On The Block Finalists

We are delighted to announce that Watson has been shortlisted for a second year running at the National Property Management Awards (PMA’s) organised by News On The Block (NOTB) magazine. This year we have been recognised for our unique status as the first and only employee owned managing agent in the UK and have therefore been nominated for ‘Employer of the Year’. We were asked to compile a short video by the award organisers that conveys what it’s like to work at Watson. We are delighted to share this and very much hope you enjoy watching our staff members’ thoughts:

Why Use An ARMA Managing Agent?

Choosing one of the UK's select ARMA-Q managing agents is the best choice for any development large or small.  Watch the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA's) video below for an explanation of how an ARMA registered agent works to higher standards:

Watson Go Greener With Solar Power

For many years Watson has embraced new technology and the movement towards sustainable buildings – both through design and maintenance - and have undertaken many projects for clients involving green technology that have not only saved them thousands but have helped to reduce carbon emissions significantly.

As a prominent and well respected company within the property management industry, Watson believe in leading by example, and that’s why they have just completed an update of their head-office building including approximately 100 photovoltaic (“PV”) cells that generate enough power to supplement usage and to feed clean and green energy back into the grid at non-peak times.

Watson Director, Anthony Bennett commented:

“One of our aims is to become the most sustainable managing agent in the UK.We have led this field for many years now through sustainable and energy efficient property management projects and we are hoping that it may be possible for us to become very close to zero-carbon in our own operations following other projects we are currently investigating and working on.”

He went on to say:

“It is great to be in the position where we can implement energy saving projects for our clients with them having full knowledge that the technology is truly tried and tested by ourselves with first hand working knowledge.This is a great reassurance to any development considering a green or energy saving element and sets us apart from the many agents out there that do not have much experience of managing such equipment.”

Watson’s next green-head-office project is rumoured to be air source heat pumps to supplement or replace their current heating systems, alongside other community based sustainability projects.

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Nationally Recognised Property Management

Watson is delighted to have been shortlisted as one of a select few finalists in a fourth separate national industry award in the space of only 12 months. Watson was chosen as a finalist in the prestigious and highly contested category of ‘Property Management Company of the Year’ which encompasses not only block management but the management of individual properties let on Assured Shorthold Tenancies.

The organisers stated that the number of entrants this year is the largest in their history and therefore simply being shortlisted as a finalist should be considered a great achievement and a testament to those concerned. The full list of finalists and categories can be found by clicking HERE

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Watson Director Awarded Rare Fellowship

CW_sq1.jpgWe are delighted to announce that Watson Director, Chris Wiles, has been awarded one of the most highly respected accolades in the industry – Fellowship of the Institute of Residential Property Managers, or IRPM. Chris joins an elite few in the UK as (at the time of writing) he is one of only 78 Fellows in the industry specific institute that is the leading provider of recognised qualifications for British block management professionals, consisting of over 3,000 members.

Fellowships are rare because they are only awarded to individuals who have contributed to the property management industry in a meaningful and demonstrable way above and beyond their day-to-day employment. Over recent years Chris has assisted members of the public through local forums, delivered educational seminars, and now assists IRPM as a committee member, helping to raise standards in the industry through the promotion of professional qualifications for property managers.

IRPM_Member_Logo_v1_CMYK.jpgThe Watson team possess a wealth of knowledge and qualifications ranging from practical building maintenance and surveying to accountancy and property law. We are proud to employ some of the most knowledgeable and experienced professionals in the industry to deliver our award winning services and are delighted to congratulate Chris on this personal achievement that also captures the ethos and professionalism of everything that we do.

Watson Awarded Sunday Times & Times ‘Best Block Management’ Award 2015

Award1.jpgWatson has been awarded one of the most highly sought after ‘Block Management Agency of the Year’ awards at The Lettings Agency of the Year Awards 2015 in association with The Sunday Times and The Times Newspapers.

On Friday 12th June, over 550 leading agents from throughout the UK attended a glittering ceremony at The Lancaster London Hotel in London opposite Hyde Park, where the winners of one of the most highly regarded awards in the industry were revealed. The winners were presented with their awards by six-time world champion and marathon ace, Paula Radcliffe MBE, with renowned journalist, author and newsreader Penny Smith acting as compere.

The whole of the judging process was overseen by The Property Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, and David Cox, Managing Director of ARLA acted as Arbiter. Award winners were decided following a rigorous and thorough judging process by a panel of 20 industry experts who assessed initial entry submissions before conducting an extensive review of the entrants, which included over 150 hours of telephone interviews and independent mystery shopping exercises.

The judges’ report stated:

“This agency [Watson] offers its clients the benefits of an employee owned structure which is designed to ensure all customers receive a positive experience from the entire team. This approach has resulted in high levels of customer satisfaction and its internal procedures have also garnered praise from professional third party bodies. A dedicated customer services reception redirects all calls to the appropriate person so landlords and tenants know they only have to make one phone call to resolve issues or queries. Green energy solutions are high on the agenda and are being rolled out across all the managed blocks to reduce costs and improve the carbon footprint. Watson is proud of its rich 200-year heritage and the core founding principles are as important and relevant to them today as they were then.”

Now in its sixth year as a dedicated competition, these awards have become widely recognised as the most prestigious and difficult to win. With more entrants than ever before, over 5,000 offices were represented this year, but only the very best of the best were crowned as winners. Individuals were also recognised for their hard work and commitment to customer service in four different categories, and a new award was introduced; The Best Agency to Work For.

Watson, winners in the ‘Best Block Management’ category were delighted to receive the award. Chris Wiles, Watson Director, commented:

“On behalf of everyone at Watson, I am overjoyed that we have been selected as one of only a handful of Block Managers in the UK to win this prestigious accolade. For us, success in our job is all about customer satisfaction and this award cements our standing as one of the very best block managers in the UK in this regard.”

He went on to say

“Recognition through such a reputable household name as The Times newspaper is very humbling and rewarding. Last year Watson was voted the No.1 block manager in the UK by ARMA (the Association of Residential Managing Agents) through their Q-Award and now we have been rated amongst the best in the UK again. We are so pleased to be consistently recognised and highly rated by independent parties for our industry leading service standards.”

How Did Employee Ownership Happen - & How Do Watson's Staff Feel About It?

Here are some of the Watson teams' recollections of the day we became employee owned:

The self titled - A day in the life of a sleepyhead...

I have never been a “morning person”. Even when going on holiday, I still feel the need to linger in the warm cocoon of my bed.If an early start is unavoidable the only incentive to get me up and away is that I can always sleep on the plane/train/car.All this brings home how different my level of exhilaration was when one cold, dark December morning I was so excited that I awoke before the alarm – what’s more, I leapt, nay, bounced out of bed immediately – there were no self-remonstrations that day!

That very morning I was one of the first at the office, shocking many of my colleagues, all wondering “who is this pod person?” [apologies to Jack Finney].Exuberance abound, everyone knew I was not quite myself: I had a smile from ear to ear, not my usual zombified stare and each time I heard the same question “what’s occurring”, my spring wound tighter.Knowing I had to keep schtum was excruciating.

Trying to keep calm and concentrate of the matters of the day, there was plenty to keep me busy: to most, an ordinary Board Meeting but to the few, a special guest appearance from a solicitor who had an extraordinary task to execute – transfer 55% of our Chairman’s shares to the members of staff – we had become EMPLOYEE OWNED!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally, the tension lifted and my fellow board members could join in my elation, albeit with more introspectiveness than the chair jig I performed.At last I could show my pleasure in what was the most amazing experience of my life, sending into insignificance the momentous occasions of giving birth to my two children.

Once the meeting was over we all awaited John’s big announcement to everyone and again I had to do something to help me refrain from bursting with pride.Next best thing for me was being tasked with buying the champagne, and to be honest, it was about the only thing I could be trusted with: thank goodness my car had autopilot for the TESCO run!

Rushing back clutching several bottles of bubbly, still no announcement, how was I to contain my excitement? Answer emails, download the meeting minutes, run off MUS reports – nothing was working, all I could think about was the big event.Was John really on the phone all this time, or was it just my imagination?Time was ticking on and my head was about to burst, if John doesn’t put that phone down soon there will be no one to make the announcement to, it was nearly time for the mass exodus that is 5pm.Lots of frantic calls to Jean followed and yet he continued with his phone call.It came to that crucial moment when I had to stop everyone leaving – what bright idea would keep everyone here without letting on why?Inspiration left me, so I just stood at the bottom of the stairs waiting to herd everyone back – but what excuse could I make?All too soon, the sound of stampeding footsteps shocked me out of my musings and I steeled myself against the hoards – no time to think – arms akimbo, I shepherded them up the stairs, all fully togged for the bleak winter weather. Manically begging and pleading I managed to convince everyone to go back into the office and shed their winter woollies.There were a few disgruntled mutterings “what’s Dolar up to now!” but I knew that soon enough those frowns would be turned upside down.

Just when I felt my fervour could take it no longer, John emerged from his office with a calm serenity that had eluded me all day: I held my breath and at last everyone knew what had transpired.Now, the whole world could know and I for one was happy to shout it from the rooftops.Cameras flashed, corks popped, glasses filled and we all toasted to John, such a small token of appreciation for what was an immense occasion!

Sleepyhead certainly slept well that night!

Dolores Charelsworth

A memento of a momentous day...

I couldn’t resist keeping a memento from the day we became Employee Owned, a momentous day which I feel so proud to be a part of. The bottle of champagne this cork once bestowed was never going to last as long as the cork!!!!

Cork.png

Having worked at Watson for over 15 years I have never seen this level of enthusiasm in the staff as I see now. We have a real “we are in this together mentality” which will help us drive the company forward for the benefit of the Employee Trust as well as our clients. Thank you John for your generosity and the belief you have shown in all of us.

Anthony Bennett

And here are three shorter thought on what Employee Ownership means to us now:

What’s happened? I’m part owner of the company? WOW!...AND you voted for me to be on the EOT Board? One of the most humbling experiences of my life. John’s generosity overwhelmed me. Thank you.

Fiona Shires

Ever since becoming part of an EO business, I feel super awesome!

Jack Darracott

Changing to employee owned business has changed my perception of my role. I now see myself as part of the company and its success directly affects me. Because of this my focus is now more towards improving our service to our clients so that we generate more business.

Ian Omant

Property Industry Comments on Election

RICS and other property stakeholders have responded to the General Election result and its implications for the property sector.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors congratulated the Prime Minister, David Cameron, on his return to office and said that it “looked forward to engaging with his new administration.” but “a solution to Britain’s long-term supply-side housing crisis is now a matter of national emergency" urging the new government to make solving this crisis a priority.

The British Property Federation say: “We worked successfully with the Conservatives as part of the Coalition and look forward to continuing that relationship to tackle the key issues impacting on our sector.  Our industry has the potential to significantly increase the amount of housing in the UK, regenerate our towns and cities, and contribute significantly to the economy if it is provided with the right legislative framework.  We would like to see the government prioritise a coherent plan to deliver increased housing supply; to follow through on the commitment to fundamentally review business rates, and take action to put in place the right infrastructure – including real estate – that will allow our country to thrive."  However "The prospect of an EU Referendum will inject uncertainty into the equation, and it is important to have clarity about its parameters and timetable as soon as possible."

BPF also state that: The mansion tax is “now an ex-policy” and the private rented sector will be pleased to see that proposed caps on rental increases and extensions to the minimum duration of tenancies will not go ahead.  However “The Conservatives have the least ambitious housing targets of any major party” and the Right to Buy proposals (which will allow tenants to buy their housing association homes at a discount) will further reduce the stock of affordable homes.

The National Housing Federation has pledged its support for the new Government whilst pushing a similar message that it is against extending the Right to Buy to housing association tenants  as a "waste of resources that could build the homes that people in every part of the UK desperately need.”

Positively, 'Estate Agent Today' reported significant increases in the share prices of some major estate agency firms on election day and predicted that deferred demand from the pre-election period will start to flow back into the market.

With the election of the new Government, there may also be movement on proposals to introduce mandatory Security Industry Authority licensing of businesses providing certain security services, including concierge services, key-holding and CCTV. This is expected to come into force as soon as possible during the new Parliamentary session, which starts later this month.

A Historic Day For Watson

Leeds based residential property managers, Watson, have this week become the very first company in the sector to become owned by its’ staff through an employee trust, akin to companies such as John Lewis and Waitrose.

Watson can trace over 200 years heritage in property, and in an extraordinarily generous move, sole owner and Chairman, John Watson, has gifted the firm to the trust in order to ensure the future security of this successful company and its’ employees, following his planned retirement over coming years.

Every staff member is now a partner in the business and is therefore uniquely integrated with the firm and motivated to deliver the very best service possible, sharing in the success of the company on an equitable basis.

John Watson commented:

“I am incredibly proud to see several centuries of my family’s hard work culminate in such an exciting move for the future that sets Watson firmly apart from our competitors.We have a wonderful team in place that is already driving the company forward from strength to strength, and I am delighted to see the future of the Watson name secure for centuries to come.”

Following independent research, the Employee Ownership Association, or EOA, reports that employee owned firms consistently outperform their traditionally owned counterparts throughout the UK and globally, with the majority showing strong growth even throughout economic downturn.

Iain Hasdell, Chief Executive of the EOA said:

"Today Watson join a thriving sector within the economy that now contributes over £30bn GDP to the UK annually, more than the aerospace sector. Watson are part of a growing network of employee owned businesses based in Yorkshire, which is rapidly becoming a UK centre for employee ownership. Research has proven that employee owned businesses achieve higher productivity and greater levels of innovation. They are also more resilient to economic turbulence and they have more engaged, more fulfilled and less stressed workforces."

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National Award Finalists

Earlier in the year, Watson were absolutely delighted to report that ARMA had selected us from their 300+ member-agents as most deserving of their annual award. This accolade - the ARMA Q award - recognised one company as having made the greatest difference to their leaseholders through the delivery of customer service excellence.

We are now equally delighted to announce that Watson have been shortlisted as one of a select few finalists in the highly contested category of Customer Service at this year’s annual News On The Block Property Management Awards.

Following independent judging and a public vote, the winners will be announced on the evening of the 4th December at an industry charity fundraising event and award ceremony held at The Troxy theatre, London.

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Announcing ARMA Q Winner 2014

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) has awarded Watson the prestigious ARMA-Q Award 2014 for excellence in residential property management.

In its’ third year, this annual award recognises only the very best in the industry and Watson are delighted to have been selected as industry leaders from a field of over 300 prominent national managing agents.

ARMA said “Watson Property Management earned the national award for going the extra mile in helping leaseholders in a Leeds block of flats deal with a myriad of problems including serious water ingress, fire, anti-social behaviour and vandalism.”

Michelle Banks, ARMA’s CEO said: “The resourcefulness and commitment that Watson Property Management demonstrates in supporting the needs of those living in the block makes them very worthy winners of ARMA-Q 2014. They epitomise the spirit of ARMA-Q, which promotes the highest possible standard of professionalism in residential leasehold management.”

Ian Omant and Chris Wiles of Watson were presented with the award trophy by ARMA’s Chairman Martin Perry in front of more than 500 delegates at the ARMA annual conference held in Westminster.

Chris said “As one of only three winners in the history of the ARMA-Q award, Watson is absolutely delighted and honoured to have been recognised for our achievements through such a highly sought after accolade.”

He went on to say “It is a great testimony to each and every one of our outstanding members of staff who consistently provide the highest possible levels of service, and a wonderful way for us to demonstrate that Watson operate to the highest standards within the industry.”

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Block Management

No longer is the location of a good school the highest priority when choosing a property to live in, as times are changing broadband speed and accessibility seem to be just as important. As the majority of the world’s population now live in city centres and with the high number of job opportunities, entertainment at your feet and many universities situated there it will come as no surprise that our city centre portfolio is ever increasing.

In the past few months alone Watson has taken on eight new instructions, five of which are located within city centres. These beautifully presented properties are an asset to our growing portfolio and with our passion and dedication to block management we are proud to welcome them on board. At Watson we are not only proud to be chosen, we are proud to be setting the trends in property management.

Whilst we are completely committed to providing the finest service to our clients we would welcome the opportunity to extend this commitment to you.

RICS Commend Watson

We recently had a visit from the RICS for one of their regular audits. Watson welcome these as an opportunity to ensure we are still, after so many years, adhering to the RICS standards and consequently delivering fully compliant services to all our thousands of customers. We are firm believers in regulating the property management industry to ensure ALL leaseholders receive the levels of service and knowledge they deserve from professional agents, but in the absence of legislation, instead we do what we can against so many of the inexperienced “have-a-go” companies out there by committing ourselves to RICS as well as to the new ARMA-Q standards for managers.

The RICS auditor was extremely happy with our processes and controls, commenting we actually went over and above what we needed to do, and we received their top grade. Excellent news that we are very proud of and testimony to much of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes for our customers and clients.

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Telephone: 0845 458 1228 or 0113 273 8788      Email:
Correspondence and Registered Office Address: Glendevon House, 4 Hawthorn Park, Leeds, LS141PQ
J H Watson Property Management Ltd Trading as Watson Property Management. Registered in England & Wales No. 1883919.